Five Levels of Home Heating Redundancy

The cold wave that is gripping the country is a demonstration that survival tactics are applicable to season conditions. The desperate arctic blast is dangerous and potentially deadly. Arctic Vortex Causes Dangerous Cold  The polar vortex is the worst in 25 years.

Exposure to the elements, especially the cold, is on of the fundamental 5 killers in a disaster.  Because of the amount of investment and preparation needed, home heating is one of the hardest prep elements for survival preparations.   You can improvise a lot of thing, but home heating is not one.  Either you are ready or not.   Therefore I recommend that you have a full five levels of redundancy for home heating.

The five levels of home heating redundancy

Level 1 –  Primary grid-attached furnace

Most modern furnaces are depending on electrical power.  There rely on grid supply electricity to run the furnace computer, thermostats, and the air push fans. While you might have a furnace that use natural gas or propane, without electricity, you have no home heat.  Too many people do not realize this vulnerability, until an ice storm drops the electrical lines for a week.    If you have an old fashion steam boiler or coal-fired furnace, consider yourself luck, since you don’t need electricity to heat your home.

Level 2 – Power-generator with a whole house hook up

If and when you lose electricity, the first level of redundancy is to have a power generator with a whole house hook up.  I spent $200 in labor and another $100 in parts to have an electrician set up a whole house hook up.   In the event of a power outage, I’ll wheel my portable (not very portable at 200 lbs, but manageable on the wheel kit) to the electric meter.  At the electrical meter, I’ll have a special heavy-duty 220 volt power cord that connects the portable generator to the house.  As the house master fuse box, I’ll switch of the incoming line from electrical utility.  And then turn on the switch that activates receiving power from the generator.  For safety reasons, you must NEVER have both incoming power switches active at the same time.  Your portable generator could electrocute a lineman if you don’t have the grid power switch off.  When power comes back on and you have both switches on, there is a possibility of damage to your generator or possibly causing a fire.    To run the typical full house, you’ll need at least a 7000 watt generator, and even then, you’ll need to ration the power load draw in the house.   Turn off the TV’s, stereos, and other non-essential power consuming devices.   A generator with more than 7000 watts will allow more devices to be powered, but will also consume more fuel.   The duration limit for the use of a portable generator is typically limited by the amount of fuel you have stored.   If you intend to use a generator to support home heating, I recommend storing a least 2 weeks of fuel for the generator.  Ready the generator’s manual to determine the runtime for a specific amount of fuel.   If your home is heated by electric baseboard type of room heating, then it is imperative to have a sizeable generator.   If the electric power is out for more that 2 weeks, as it was after Hurricane Sandy, expect to run out of fuel.  Or the generator may need to have oil added.  Or the generator will have some type of maintenance issues.   Therefore, I recommend that you have additional levels of redundancies to heat your home.

Level 3 – Fireplace or Wood Stove

I absolutely love the warmth and glow of a blazing fireplace during a cold winters’ night.   The first level of redundancy for many to heat their home is a fireplace.  If you have a traditional chimney vented fireplace, count yourself among the lucky.  If you have a vent less, ornamental fireplace, count yourself among the unlucky.  Ventless fireplaces are nearly worthless — I hate them.   All the burnt flumes from a ventless fireplace come into your home.  You can heat your home with a ventless.   Ventless is only for low-level show, and not for heating.   If you have a ventless fireplace, replace with a fireplace insert and have an external vent installed.    The limit to the duration of heating your home with a fireplace or wood stove is simply the amount of firewood you store.   Having 4 cords of wood ready for your fireplace or wood stove is like money in the bank.   Modern wood stoves are very efficient at providing home heat, and recommended additions to any cold region home.

Level 4 – Portable Home Heater

A very good backup to any home heating system is a portable heater.  The traditional kerosene heater has been used for generations to supplement heat during the winter.   I recently purchased a Mr. Buddy portable propane heater.   Propane gives off less fumes versus kerosene.  With kerosene or propane portable heaters, you need to be very careful about carbon monoxide poisoning.  You’ll need to vent exterior air into the room where a portable heater is being used.   And all homes, regardless, should have carbon monoxide detectors in use.    I recommend having a carbon monoxide detector in the room where the portable heater is running, in the kitchen, and in each bedroom.

Level 5 – Expedition Quality Sleeping Bags

In the worst case situation, each family member should have an outdoor quality sleeping bag.   With the record low temperatures hitting the USA this week, this represents way you need sleeping bags that are rated well below the average cold temperatures in your region.   If the average low temperature in your area is 30 degrees F, then have sleeping bags rated to zero degrees.   If your average lows are 15 degrees F, then have a sleeping system rated down to -10 F.   In order to make the maximum use of your sleeping bag year round, recommend that you obtain a sleep system bag.  Sleep systems often come with 3 layers.   The three layers include the sleeping bag, a cold weather insert, and an outer bivy bag.   When the power goes out in the middle of the night, a sleep system will keep you from freezing.

If all fails after 5 layers of redundancy, then you should then be in a bug-out situation.  Or go to mom’s house or a friend’s house.

May all your winter nights be warm and cozy.  Stay warm this week.   Brrrr.   It’s cold here.

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